Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tea House Scam: Ashton's Takes His Revenge - Part 2

You should know that it took a long process that brought me to my final solution - and decision to act out against the Chinese who robbed me, a process where I decided police and authorities would not help me; I had to set down a marker. I acted alone as a vigilante, but I did so to represent a group of vulnerable people without a voice:  tourists.

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The fake Dashanqing "Tea House" entrance
before I took action.

Cleverly, these Tea House scammers preyed on a group of people in Beijing least organized and most vulnerable, while at the same time the wealthiest. But after seeing what they had done myself and then witnessing others experience that same "gotcha" feeling, I decided I should act.

You see, these Chinese people not only robbed me physically, but they robbed me emotionally; they robbed me of my excited happy feeling in coming to a new country. On my first day in Beijing, I encountered not genuinely friendly people, but desperate, manipulative thugs in the guise of innocence -- and they were doing this to victims again and again.

After experiencing the scam, running away and escaping - I probably would have written it off as another great story to tell; it was pretty exhilarating to run down the street in the middle of the day being chased by some wack-job. But back at that Tiananmen Square East subway stop, I ran into another victim - and this one was Chinese herself! They preyed on their own!

While she told me to go to the police, in such a huge place I had my doubts they would even listen to a foreigner, let alone take action.

So as I rode the (exhaustingly massive) Beijing Subway to my next tourist spot, I percolated an idea. After being chased by a madwoman screaming at me without so much as a passing glance from others, this must be a place with no rules, right? I could do whatever I wanted ... maybe? Arriving at the Hongqiao or Pearl Market near Beijing's Temple of Heaven I had no action plan, but an inclination that I should try to directly make a stand against these people - and to send a message one option might be spray-paint.
Hongqiao Pearl Market

However, I didn't know the Chinese word for paint - let alone spray paint! Yet upon entering the Pearl market, (much more than a market for pearls) hockers immediately looked t sell their items and I took advantage of their entreaties to get what I wanted. With a little pantomime and some english, they sent me next door to the Kids Toy Market, which includes a top floor of stationary, painting & office supplies.

Still - I did not make this my main focus - I treated it as a job to be done if more exciting opportunities didn't present themselves. First I did some shopping, bought some knock-off Nikes and a Louis Vuitton wallet and made some friends - a group of students touring from Germany!

German students who helped me bargain & the hocker
asking for "no picture!" at the Hongqiao Pearl Market.
But after making a fool of myself bargaining - and arguing with Chinese hockers that were too pushy, I set out to find my spray-paint next door. Again, with some more pantomime, I was presented with a wall of whatever spray paint I could imagine - but what color should I use? Of course, the Gayographer could only use Pink! Now what? As the evening began, I would return to the scene of the scam. 

Back at the "Tea House", called online the Dashanqing Tea House, I lurked a moment across the street and saw some newly doped tourists emerge!

One guy just stood staring up in disbelief outside for a minute - perhaps he was thinking like I was. An American from Alabama, he explained, after he started walking up the street and I joined him, duped by a whole group of guys just interested in "sharing some beers". We wandered and chatted a bit. He had lived in China for over 2 years - but outside in the provinces where maybe people were a bit more genuine and friendly - not ready to rob you!

As, we looked around the Wangfujiang Shopping Area together looking for a place to charge phones, we discussed the Tea House scam and what had happened to him. He wouldn't reveal how much he ended up paying for his mistake! Not yet fully confident in my plan, I didn't reveal the can of spray-paint; if I was going to act it would be on my own, I decided. He had to head out and catch a flight anyway.

Likely difficult to read for most people - but
at least I covered the building in pink!
I meandered back towards Tiananmen Square and that nondescript "Tea House" and realized I should eat! Doing some quick online searches yielded a result right nearby and some Danish guys invited me to join them for dinner. But they too soon headed off together back to their hostel nearby.

On my own again and with other friends to occupy my time, I decided it was now or never. I just walked up to the closed store-front and began spray-painting. Despite my long deliberation about committing this act, I didn't take the time to craft the best messaging, "Do Not Enter" "Tourists Beware" "Prostitutes" and "Thieves" were the labels i created on the spot - and wow did this feel good. The business owner next door, still open, pantomimed to me that I would have to wipe off the paint - but I just smiled and continued, as if this was my job!

Still, after covering where I could reach - I wanted to really put the nail in the coffin by spray-painting the marquee space above - where a sign should have hung, but was bare. I needed a ladder to reach such a height. So I looked in an alleyway next door.

Getting up top to write "Thieves" was my
crowning achievement!
I could hear people working away and I peeked in to see dozens of computers humming and workers photoshopping the Great Wall and other Chinese scenes behind pictures of tourist groups. First I searched outside for anything I could just borrow momentarily, but without luck, I went in and asked if they might have one. Friendly and courteous, they took me right to google-translate to find out what strange word I was using. Ah-ha! Yes, they did have a ladder - and they helped me bring it outside, where I promptly walked back down the alley out to the main street, and continued defacing their neighbor's property!

Finally, a Japanese couple walking by asked me what on earth I was doing and I turned them quickly into enthusiastic supporters with my story; one took my picture and then they told me it was time to go because the neighbor business-owner (who was finally closing up shop) called the police!

I diligently returned my ladder next door and thanked them profusely - 'she-she' - wiped the spray paint can clean of fingerprints and hurried off so I could catch the last train back home.

The next day, I told no one - but it wore on me, I just HAD to return to the scene of the crime and see what they had done...

Ready for Part 3? Find out how they responded - and how they nearly avenged my dirty deed!!

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